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Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Return to Cottage Grove

Buster Keaton’s silent masterpiece The General was always one of my favorites and the bridge collapse and locomotive crash in the climactic scene at the end of the film (and the single-most expensive shot in the history of silent film) had always intrigued me.

The film had mostly been shot in the small Oregon town of Cottage Grove, and though I had never visited, when I was researching the story, the local library was kind enough to send me photocopies of some of the town’s newspaper coverage of the filming.

A Return To Cottage Grove was read aloud and displayed at the 2007 convention of The Buster Keaton Society, which took place at Cottage Grove. I was told they enjoyed it.

For years afterward, the train lay at the bottom of the river where it had come to rest after the bridge collapsed. Their curiosity aroused by the stories, people often hiked to the isolated spot, where they would stand silently and point at the wreckage, imagining the sound of the steam whistle hissing angrily as it struck the water. After all, they had seen the wreck dozens of times before in the movie.

I sat on the narrow bank of the Row River, some seventy years after the locomotive The Texas sank violently to the bottom of its waters and tried to recreate the scene in my mind. I could hear the sounds of the whistle screaming, of the timbers bending and snapping as the bridge collapsed, of the metal grinding and twisting, the train falling to its death.

The shallow waters of the Row ran smoothly, silently, flowing downstream around a gentle curve where the Oregon National Guard, dressed as Civil War soldiers had staged the greatest battle Cottage Grove had ever seen. Of course, the wreckage of the train was long gone; the scrap iron drive of the Second World War had claimed most of the usable metal and a junk dealer had taken the rest years later. The tourists had also faded with the passage of time and most of those who had actually been present had gone the way of The Texas, leaving only those of us who had heard the story to carry on the memory.

My grandfather had been eight years-old when Buster Keaton checked into the Cottage Grove Hotel, in town to film his silent epic “The General”. Like most of the citizens of Cottage Grove, young Vilas Samuals had gotten caught up in the excitement of having a real-life movie star come to his town to film a motion picture. He found himself hanging around the hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous film comedian and at one point even had the good fortune of obtaining Keaton’s autograph on a scrap of paper. The first thing that a person notices upon arrival to Cottage Grove, Oregon is the weather. Located in the heart of Northwestern lumber country, the air is crisp and clear and even on summer mornings there is often a light dew covering the grass. It was the weather and the beauty of the countryside that lured the Keaton Studio to Cottage Grove and I imagine that it was some of these same qualities that kept my grandfather in the town for all of his seventy nine years.

I drove to Cottage Grove after my grandfather’s death. It was late evening when I pulled up to the clapboard house where he had lived his entire life and the place I had spent most of my childhood summers. The old house was quiet and stuffy, so I turned on the lights in every room and opened the windows. It was warm and familiar, like the comfort of an old sweater, but at the same time, each room seemed empty without Grandpa Vi.

I saw bits and pieces of his life in every corner. There were the orange work caps with the soiled brims that he had worn to the mills. The pipes on the mantle still smelled of Prince Albert smoking tobacco and hung in the hallway was a yellowed piece of paper with Buster Keaton’s autograph, framed with a grainy 8x10 photograph of the dour-faced clown. Grandpa had often told me how they let school out the day Keaton filmed the great train crash at the Row River—the single most expensive shot in silent film history, they said. He said many people walked the entire twenty miles to the river’s banks to watch the filming. There had been an exciting, carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the event, with everyone watching in awe as Keaton put his guardsmen through their paces. Grandpa Vi and his brother Virgil had watched from the bank as the bridge was set on fire. The nervous hum of the crowd grew tense as people strained to see every movement on the bridge below.

Grandpa loved to describe the locomotive as it began to slowly crawl along the tracks. The bridge began to creak and moan. “Someone’s on the train!” a man screamed, pointing toward the bridge. The onlookers grew uneasy and Grandpa Vi watched—there was someone at the throttle! The Texas moved through the flames that licked at its sleek, shiny engine. Suddenly, the bridge collapsed with a thunderous roar and the crowd screamed as one, terrified for the unfortunate engineer manning the helm. The whistle’s tortured cry echoed through the surrounding forest as the bridge tumbled down around the fallen locomotive, steam spewing out of the churning water.

My grandfather used to take me to the place where the locomotive had fallen, to fish or picnic. Each time, I would beg to hear the story and each time he would oblige. When I was sixteen, Grandpa checked out a 16 millimeter copy of “The General” and a projector from the library and we watched quietly as the black and white images danced silently across the screen. As the flickering Texas fell into the water, my stomach flip-flopped and my mind imagined the death screams of the train’s whistle and the terror of the spectators just beyond the camera’s range. Of course, my grandfather explained, there had been no one aboard the locomotive—it had been a dummy that went down with the train. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see the picture that had played such a memorable role in my grandfather’s childhood. I stole glances at him as he watched the screen intently, smiling as if he were viewing the film for the first time.

The night I arrived in Cottage Grove after his death, I slept in Grandad’s bed and thought of his life as the streetlights played shadows on the wall. He had worked in the sawmills until he was in his mid-sixties and based most of his attitudes, beliefs and needs on the cycles, history and activities of his community. He was a simple man from a small town who was never too busy to help a neighbor shingle his roof, or listen to a joke, poorly told, by a passing friend.

I could smell my grandfather in the room and could almost hear him whistling in the hall—but softly, as not to wake Grandmother. As I began to drift off to sleep in the security of his home, I suddenly missed Grandpa Vi deeply, not certain how to cope with the unsettling feeling of irreplaceable loss. Now, sitting on the bank of the river Row, I watched the water ripple over a rock, creating a whirlpool. For a moment, I thought I glimpsed a piece of rusted metal beneath the swirling current. I looked closer and it was gone, an illusion. Gazing at the river it was difficult to picture the bridge, the locomotive or the two thousand men marching its banks. But in the next moment, when I closed my eyes, I conjured up the picture my grandfather had drawn a thousand times.

It was a scratchy image, a black and white world with subtle shades of gray adding texture to the silent rumblings of the great locomotive. Buster Keaton, sad-faced and mournful, staring over the throttle of a steaming engine. My grandfather gazing longingly at the water, picturing the ghost of a memory passed, a memory forever alive in his heart.

The whirlpool twirled in an endless cycle, flowing gently over the rock and I found that if I squinted, I could see a rusted piece of The Texas. And if I cleared my mind, I could see the bridge, the men and the glorious battle of Cottage Grove. But the memory I could draw most vividly was the image of Grandpa Vi, smiling warmly, sitting on the bank of the Row, telling a young boy once again about the summer Buster Keaton came to Cottage Grove.

As the sun set over the Row Rover, I gathered myself up and prepared for the hike back to my car. I breathed a heavy sigh and looked out over the peaceful water. Just as the memory of a summer’s day seventy years ago had been etched into my Grandfather’s mind like a cherished photograph, I could never be without Grandpa Vi, the memories he had passed on to me, or our shared moments at the final resting place of The Texas.

From the book of short stories "Grainy Memories", available at

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gilligan's Island

In the 70-odd years since the manufacture of the first cathode ray tube television sets, there have been but two Gilligans to have impacted our society via the television waves. The first was the bumbling first mate of the SS Minnow, Willy Gilligan; the other is the creator of the TV series "Breaking Bad", Vince Gilligan. While one Gilligan led five passengers and his skipper on an infamous "3-hour tour", ultimately ending in light-hearted disaster, the other led us all on a 5-season tour-de-force that has left a nation feeling empty and clamoring for more, yet ultimately satisfied with its inevitable conclusion.

I have observed that there are many similarities in these Gilligan shows, and fittingly, just as many differences between the two. For instance, the crew and passengers of the Minnow were stranded on a deserted island, with no connection to the outside world, no possibility of rescue and had to count on their wits to survive. They built a rudimentary generator invented by the ingenious professor, powered by a stationary bicycle fashioned out of bamboo, coconuts and palm fronds. Walter and Jesse, the methamphetamine manufacturing "protagonists" from Breaking Bad, also found themselves high and dry, only this time in the desert wasteland outside Albuquerque. Walter, also a dyed in the wool professor genius-type, made a battery out of nuts, bolts, sponges and carbon shavings.

While First-Mate Gilligan could often be heard shouting "I'll go tell the others!" while racing off into the teeth of adventure, Walter's "first mate", Jesse Pinkman could often be heard shouting "Yo, BITCHES!" while bumbling into his own share of mishaps, usually with wildly different results than the sitcom hero.

Gilligan had a fondness for coconut cream pie; Jesse for crystal meth. Gilligan constantly overlooked his chances to sleep with Ginger and Maryanne; Jesse triggered a relapse and subsequent overdose that allowed Jane to choke to death on her own vomit and gets Andrea shot in the back of the head by evil Todd (referred to by Vince Gilligan as "Opie Hitler"). First mates: not too smooth with the ladies.

On the other hand, on Gilligan's Island if you suffered massive head trauma (a coconut falling from above, or perhaps being smacked with a club or running into a tree), a character would usually lose his or her memory, but would fully regain the memory with a subsequent and equally traumatic head trauma. However, in Breaking Bad, if say, an ATM machine fell on a character's head, they were killed instantly, with lots of oozing blood and maybe a little twitching.

Both shows had colorful supporting characters with their own endearing hallmark phrases: Gilligan's Island with Thurston Howell III ("Lovey!!!") and Breaking Bad with Walt Junior ("Mom, that's BULLSHIT!") Both had annoying shrews in the cast: Gilligan's Island had the ever-irritating "Lovey" Howell and Breaking Bad had that shrill harpy Marie. I wished on many occasions that Lovey would stumble, fall or be flung into an active volcano or get herself chewed to death by a cartload of angry rabid chimps while taking some sun. Similarly, I often hoped Marie would have a gruesome, bloody accident while cleaning Hank's .45, or get in a gruesome, bloody accident involving a bus or an oil truck and lots of fire.

Coincidence? I think not.

Whatever the case, my childhood would not have been the same without the antics of the zany castaways in one of the worst shows ever produced, and I cannot deny being affected by the dizzyingly wild ride of Breaking Bad, questionably one of the best. They are, in my opinion, the all-time Gilligan Yin and Gilligan Yang of television and for that, we thank you Gilligans. And Yo, bitches, I'll go tell the others.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Best Defense is a Strong Offense


INT. JERRY'S CAR (Nighttime). Colored lights swirl in the rearview mirror. Jerry has been pulled over by the local constabulary.
               (Looking in his rearview mirror at the pretty lights. Slurs) Goddamn it...

A POLICE OFFICER shines his flashlight into the driver's side window. Jerry squints and smiles.

                 Good evening...

                  Do you know why I pulled you over, Sir?

Jerry blinks and squints and thinks for a moment.

                   To tell me the winning lottery numbers, lest I neglect to check on my own?

                    May I see your license and registration, please?

                    Of course. (Rummages through his glove box for the materials)

                    Your car smells like a brewery, sir. (He takes the paperwork in hand)

                     (Nods) Yes, sir. We were brewing beer in here earlier. Tomorrow, we are stomping wine grapes. It's part of a reality series on mobile distilleries.

                      Your eyes are red and your pupils are dilated.

                      (Nods) I am part albino. It's a curse, truly.

                      (Nods) I see. (Shines his light into the back seat - a blow-up sex dummy waits invitingly, mouth wide open, either in surprise or welcome) Is this part of  your reality series?

                       (Nods) Yes sir. That's Rita.

                       (Shines his light onto the floorboard, revealing a WWII-era flamethrower)
                        And that?

                        Yes sir. It helps with the distilling process. It's pretty technical.

There is a banging noise from the trunk.
                         What's that?

                          Search me... I think I need to speak to my lawyer...

Jerry hands the officer a well-worn business card.

(Shines his flashlight on the card) Gerald Gavin, is it?

                            (Nods and smiles) Esquire.

                            I'll be right back... (The officer goes back to his car to call the attorney)

The thumping continues.

                             (Shouts) SHUT UP, TAGGART, OR WE'RE ALL GOING TO PRISON!

The thumping stops.

The officer walks back to the car.

                               (Hands Jerry the card) I'm afraid your attorney is in jail, sir...


                                Custody, yes...

                                (Sighs and shakes his head) Fuck.... Again?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Next Stop - Assisted Living!

I turned 53 years old yesterday and obviously, most of my better days are behind me. Now I can look forward to easing gracefully into my golden years with a colorful vocabulary and a keen eye for the absurdities in life, both finely-honed after decades of diligent observation and commentary. This may or may not serve me well.

Assuming that I will most likely serve out my final years alone, given that I have yet to find a female on earth who has proven hearty enough to endure me for more than a cursory cup of coffee (the latest next-ex-Mrs. Ford has proven durable, but this can most-likely be attributed to the fact that we have spent most of our marriage in separate countries), I am gnawing at the bit for the day when I can finagle my way into assisted living.

I know that most old-folks put up a fuss, fighting this move with every fiber in their elderly being, declaring loudly, if not lucidly, that they "WILL NOT GIVE UP" their independence. Pffffffft, I say. Have at it - I have long since come to terms with the realization that I am at best a horrible manager of my independence and would prefer to have someone else do it for me, as well as make my bed, do my laundry, change my diaper and fill my sippy-cup with cheap Scotch. This will give me more time to concentrate on crossword puzzles, internet porn, Matlock reruns and the perfect, delicate balance of tasty cheese, meat stick and cracker.

I would delight in never having to mow another lawn, skim another pool, fold another load of laundry, replace another fuse, gasket, fixture, bulb or nozzle of any kind for the rest of my life, unless it fine-tunes my sippy-cup to optimum sipping-power. My schedule would work as follows:

5:30 AM: Rise early, log into the internet, write some if feeling up to it. If not, read news and figure out which nuggets might be skimmed and blogged about in appropriately crusty fashion. Really just killing time until 5:50.

5:50 AM: Take care of business. My digestive system has been reliable for over 5 decades and at this point, I do not anticipate any change in the "Twenty Minute Rule" in the near future, unless I suddenly inexplicably become addicted to pain killers or some other substance that might cause unanticipated and unprecedented unruly constipation.

6:00 AM: Stroll to the common area to see if any of the ladies are up and about, stop by the kitchen to see what's cooking and when it will be ready to eat. Browbeat the staff as needed.

6:30 AM: Claim place on the common area couch and commandeer the television remote. Search through the 500-plus channels that I am no longer forced to pay for and see if Matlock is on anywhere. If not, find suitable news or sports channel. Nap until breakfast. Sit on remote (literally) while napping to make certain none of those other sneaky sons of bitches try to get at it.

7:30 AM: Eat quickly and efficiently. Take any meds that require food and drink plenty of juice. Remember that I am not responsible for buying the groceries, so eat seconds whenever possible, as long as it doesn't interfere with getting back to the common area couch before the others. If it looks as if there might be a challenger to the lead seat on the common area couch, create a diversion by sweeping plates onto the floor. Feign a seizure or dementia as needed.

8:00 AM: Challenge all comers to an invigorating game of Risk, working down the board-game food-chain in the following order: Monopoly, Life, ScatterGories, Chutes and Ladders and finally Tic-Tac-Toe. Make sure games are on hand and plenty of soft-leaded pencils. Crush competitors. If challenged for a victory, sweep games onto the floor. Feign a seizure or dementia as needed.

9:00 AM: Tune in to "Matlock", advise all others in the common room that there will be a quiz after the episode. Chuckle, guffaw or smile knowingly as appropriate and use these key moments to make eye contact with the most attractive ladies in attendance. Keep an eye out for any chippy would-be rivals. Note their room locations. Bribe orderlies as needed.

!0:30 AM: Take a walk around the well-manicured grounds with the most feisty of the ladies on hand at the Matlock viewing. If there is a walker involved, make certain the little lady has fresh tennis balls on the feet of the contraption. Safety first. Ask her to meet after dinner in the Rumpus Room.

10:32 AM: Turn back for the safety of the common area, take oxygen as needed and visually identify the location of the remote. After re-invigoration, sit next to the person with the remote. During a commercial break, snatch the remote away from the usurper. Wrestle the device away if necessary. Use teeth, feet and elbows to obtain the remote. Feign seizure or dementia as needed.

11:00 AM: Nap on couch, again sitting on the remote. Those wily sons of bitches are ruthless. Like zombies with dentures.

12:00 PM: Eat lunch, again with efficiency. Hide remote in underpants throughout, No need to rush - enjoy lunch. It's the most important meal of the day. Have seconds whenever possible - remember, the grub does not cost extra.

1:00 PM: Take note of the ladies who do not immediately fall asleep after lunch. They will be the feistiest later. Use the soft-lead pencils.

1:15 PM: Nap in the common room. Put on an old-timey movie if possible and cozy up to a feisty Betty if possible. This will pay off in spades later.

2:15 PM: Take meds, drink some juice and begin asking for the Scotch Sippy-Cup. Bribe orderlies as necessary.

3:00 PM: Volunteer to lead afternoon activities. Suggest "Spin The Bottle", "Seven Minutes in Heaven" and "Strip Poker". Settle for a lively round of "Twister" and break out the baby oil. Bribe orderlies as needed.

3:15 PM: Go to room for refractory period and take a nap. Take a lively Betty, if possible. Use as capable.

4:30 PM: Dismiss the lively Betty and shower up for dinner. Don't forget to use soap and be vigorous.

5:00 PM: Dine with the group. Have extra helpings of dumplings, gravy, cornbread and/or cobbler as available. These increase vigor - it's been studied and documented.

6:00 PM: Break out the ukulele and lead a singalong of old-timey favorites and bawdy sea-shanties and encourage synchronized dancing. Try to include those with walkers - they tire quickly and will sleep well afterward. Consider it a gift.

7:00 PM: Sneak a re-fill of the sippy-cup. Meet Betty in rumpus room. Bribe orderlies as needed. Use time wisely, then take a short nap.

8:00 PM: Take television remote out of underpants and find a suitable movie for evening viewing. Something recent and topical, like "Tootsie", "Escape From New York" or "Rocky". Once the movie is chosen, give up the remote and shout for popcorn and more Scotch. Fall asleep as needed.

9:30 PM: Allow transportation to room by orderlies - make eye contact with feisty Betties along the way - you never know, Sleep well and dream of jangly, three-chord pop music with tight harmonies.

Repeat until called to live with Jesus.

Bring it on!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stuff It Up Your *ss.

Anyone who has ever watched "Inside the Actor's Studio", with its creepy host, James Lipton, is familiar with the questions based on the "Proust Questionnaire" that Lipton lobs to his guests at the end of the show. "What turns you on?" "What turns you off?" "What sound or noise do you love?", etc. Blah, blah, blah... I don't care if Dustin Hoffman loves the sound of his own self-important voice rattling around in that huge, self-important head of his.
The question that always grabs my attention is "What is your favorite curse word?" Of course, since the show is on Bravo, the curse word is generally bleeped out anyhow, leaving the answer limp and ineffective. I am not a good lip-reader, so unless the person in charge of the bleeping is talented, I usually have no clue. The talented bleeper on the other hand, can make the bleeped out curseword as apparent as if it had not been bleeped at all. Instead of hearing **** off!, one hears *uck off! - much more exciting.

But I am not writing today to discuss bleeping out cursewords, or even to dive into the Actor's Studio. I am writing to discuss my own newest, favoritest curse word. Actually, it's a phrase. My old favorite was "horsesh*t", followed closely by "sh*t*ss". That's how they would be bleeped by a talented bleeper. It seems I have a thing for fecal-based cursing. Along those lines, my new favorite curse-phrase is "Stuff it up your *ss". I have made it a point to bring this up to several colleagues, friends and co-workers, resulting in varying degrees of uncomfortable conversation, depending on the person with whom I conversed. What the *ell, I thought they needed to know...

My reasoning for "Stuff it up your *ss" is simple. It is an elegant, powerful statement. If you tell someone to "stick" something up their *ss, it almost seems like asking them to shelve a book for you, or hand you the salt. To "shove" something up one's *ss is a bit more powerful, but in the manner of being a sudden shock, like dipping one's toes in icy water. On the other hand, if you "stuff" something up your *ss, you've undertaken a project that is going to be long, painful, strenuous and perhaps impossible.

And I like that thought, because if I am angry or annoyed enough to tell someone to "stuff your attitude up your *ss!", I want them to take awhile to work on it and know it's there when they've finished. When telling someone off and tossing out the suggestion thatthe argument should ultimately end up in your listener's *ss, there is a delicate balance between being dismissive ("stick it up your *ss.") and overly forceful ("ram it up your *ss."). Which is why "stuff it up your *ss" is such a beautiful send off. It is the perfect blend of contempt and power.
I have been bandying the phrase about with abandon, enjoying the way it rolls off the tongue. While watching "Tombstone" lastnight on television, I noted that one of the lesser Clantons told Wyatt Earp to "stuff it up your *ss!" I was amazed at the young man's moxie, but also knew without a doubt that his time on earth was now limited. One must be wary to whom you levy the "stuff it up your *ss". It is a fine rejoinder, but should be used with caution.

James Lipton: "What is your favorite curseword?" Jerry: "Stuff it up your *ss."

James Lipton: "What sound makes you happy?" Jerry: "The sound of you stuffing your questions up your *ss."
(From February, 2011)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Hand me a Tums - I think I'm going to barf."

I was asked to settle a distpute this morning. A co-worker asked me what a single antacid tablet from the "Tums" bottle is called - a "Tum", or a "Tums"?

I thought for a moment and said, "A Tum." She frowned. "But it's a brand name," she said. I frowned, too. She is pregnant and I didn't want to make a wrong turn here and send her into a crying jag or an angry pregnant frenzy. "Good point," I said.

My mind went to work. "Did you Google it?" She hadn't, so I did. I turned to the World Wide Web, which told me that one should not singularize a brand name. I continued to frown. Though it proved her right - and I agreed in principal - it did not feel right to me. "Would you say 'hand me a Tums'?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "That's what I say."

I nodded.

Some things lend themselves to leaving the "S" intact without question. Like Schnapps. One would not ask for a shot of Schnapp. One would be summarily slapped by any bartender worth his salt - especially if the bartender was German. Aside from Schnapps, I cannot think of many trademarked brand names ending in the letter "S" that sound anything less than silly when spoken aloud when asking for a single item from its package. To whit:

  • "Yeah, buddy, a Fig Newtons sounds fantastic right about now..."
  • "My ear is clogged - hand me a Q-Tips, stat..."
  • "My Twinkies is a little light on the delightful cream filling..."
  • "The baby has shit himself - hand me a Wet Wipes! And get me a fresh Pampers!"
  • "I would like a Skittles, please - just one..."
  • I dropped an M&Ms - the rest are in my belly..."
I would like to think that my initial call was spot-on - World Wide Web and its grammar police be damned. As I have said many times, this is a time of change. Revolt is in the air - rebellion imminent. When I am duly elected King (again, apparently not eligible for Pope), we will have grammatical rules based in common sense, which is apparently not so common. While I do not wish to be slapped silly by a surly German bartender, I am equally adverse to sounding like an ignorant hillbilly when I ask for someone to hand me "a Wet Wipes".

Singularize when applicable, I say. And stay strong on the Schnapps.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Big, Colorful Typewriter

I once considered the computer to be nothing more than a big, colorful typewriter. Then, at some point it became the powerful magic box that through a series of mystifying keystrokes, aided by swift, assured mouse-clicks and atonal humming on my part, had the ability to find any piece of information in the known universe. With photographs, if desired. The computer, and its associated universe – the internet, is the modern-day equivalent to the old, stately home of knowledge, the Encyclopedia Britannica. The internet is an endless storehouse of information, which if printed, bound and stacked as actual books, would stretch from here to the third moon of Jupiter. Twice. This is a fact; I checked on Google.

On my big, colorful typewriter, I can also watch television, listen to music, pay my bills and type instant messages to friends and family across the land. It was one of the watershed moments of my life when I realized that I might never need lick an envelope again, rating right up there with the invention of the self-adhesive stamp, which eliminated the need to ever lick a stamp again. Licking paper was one of the banes of my childhood.

But I digress.

The big, colorful typewriter has evolved into a small colorful typewriter and then a handheld colorful typewriter with tiny little perfect keys. Then my telephone disappeared and was replaced by an even smaller colorful typewriter on which I could now telephone my friends and family across the land, as well as send them succinct text messages with complete sentences and flawless spelling and grammar. I have read that my telephone has more power than the computer that NASA used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon. That makes me giddy. Soon, I imagine I will be fitted with a miniscule chip that will enable me to accomplish a multitude of tasks using little more than thought.

I have watched my children grow up as the computer has developed and adapt to the move into technological savvy and now see a new generation of users that know no different. There is a video on YouTube (I watched it on my computer – the small one) of a baby swiping at a magazine as if he could make the picture on the cover larger by placing his fingers on the page and moving his thumb and forefinger apart, as he would on an IPad. The baby didn’t know to turn the page, which I considered not only a senseless tragedy, but a true sign of the times.

I come from a simpler age and must admit that I miss the sound of the typewriter clacking away and trying to get to the television to change the channel with the telephone cradled between my shoulder and cheek while stretching to the very end of the phone’s cord to reach the knob. My kids will never have to do this. Nor will the babies with their IPads. I could rant a little bit about things “the way they used to be”, but I realize that I never had to chop wood to cook my meals, shoot, grow or pick my food or ride a horse to work. It’s called progress and at my age, it’s “put up or shut up” and we must roll with the changes or be left behind in a cloud of… Well, a cloud of information, because according to Google, that’s where the information lives

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Baby Name List Is Cooler Than Yours.

A friend and colleague at work is having a baby. It's going to be a boy when it emerges and I have, for several months now, made various suggestions as to the moniker of the little tyke, most of which have been met with disdain.

Since the choices I have offered up to this point have been mostly whimsical, I have decided to pen the ultimate Baby Name List, using logic, history and phonetics to come up with the coolest male baby names from which to choose. Girl names are easy - simply avoid names like Edith, Gertrude and  Eloise. And stripper-names - avoid those, too.

The surname of the family with which I have to work is of an excellent naming base. Two syllables, both hard stops - as if it has been clipped neatly from the name-tree. "Richards". This is a fine name for pairing one, two or three syllable first-names, which gives us a broad canvas on which to paint. But let's talk first about the basics of baby-naming.

It seems to me that baby names fall into two logical categories:

"Names Which Ring True" Names Which Ring True are names that elicit reaction as they are spoken, and these fall into several sub-categories, such as "Phonetically Pleasing", which are names that just seem to roll off the tongue in a pleasant fashion. Dana Carvey, Helen Hunt and Mickey Mantle are examples of these. Easy to say with a smile on your face. These names ring true at a visceral level.
"Historically Noble" is another sub-category. Names that are culled from history, such as Alexander, Jesus, Noah and Christopher are practically torn from the pages of history and each name brings a historical figure immediately to mind. This can backfire, however, with names like Adolf, Saddam, Lee Harvey and Milhouse. Make your historically-based choices carefully.
"Sports Figures and Other Celebrities" is the last of the major "Ring True" sub-categories and is probably one of the most popular. Movie stars, characters from movies, books and TV as well as cultural icons all fall under this umbrella. How many babies have been named "Britney", "Justin" or "Lindsay" in the last 15 years, anyhow? You get the point.

"Names of Predisposition" Names of this type are the most dangerous of all. Stripper names fall into this category. "Destiny", "Angel", "Candy", "Raven", "Houston" and "Anastasia" should be avoided at all costs. Since this is a male-based name search, we will leave it at that. Predisposition is almost like a science experiment. Names chosen in this fashion nearly guarantee the profession and life-course of the child. The names "Peabody" and "Poindexter" will most likely make you the proud parent of a librarian or civil engineer. "Jerry Lee" anything will provide your offspring with the likeliest chance of living in a trailer, owning a cache of firearms and taking a potshot at a political, religious or equal rights public figure with the firearms.

Now, down to work on Baby Richards.Here is a logical list, based on our criteria, broken down by group:

Names Which Ring True

Phonetically Pleasing:
  • Kent Richards
  • Blair Richards
  • Brock Richards
  • Phillip Richards
  • Bradley Richards
These names just sound nice - people would enjoy saying them and might always choose to use both first and last names when addressing your son, which is the ultimate show of respect in some countries.

Historically Noble:
  • Grant Richards
  • Beauregard Richards
  • Sherman Richards
  • Lincoln Richards
  • Kennedy Richards
  • Sampson Richards
  • Aristotle Richards
  • Einstein Richards
  • Washington Richards
  • Crispus Richards
These names are regal. Any man would be proud to sign "Beauregard Richards" to any legal document. In fact, I may start doing so immediately.

Sports Figures and other Celebrities:
  • Cassius Richards
  • Babe Richards
  • Frazier Richards
  • Rocky Richards
  • Clooney Richards
  • Pitt Richards
  • Bourne Richards
  • Marlowe Richards
  • Bogart Richards
  • Cary Richards
  • Orson Richards
  • Dino Richards
  • Huck Richards
You get the idea. This is probably the most fun category and I really like "Pitt Richards" - that boy will be an adventurer for certain. Good looking kid, too, most likely.

As a footnote, any Earp is a keen baby name: Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil... All will kick ass and grow a fantastic mustache.

I don't want to get too in-depth on the predisposal - I think this category is a powder keg. That said, if you would like your child to grow up to be a flamboyant piano player, go with the name "Elton", or "Liberace" - "Lee", for short. Or, you could utilize the baby-name double-tap and name the child "Elton Liberace Richards" - this would guarantee for certain that your son will grow up with a penchant for feathers, plumes, capes and gaudy jewelry. And a wicked talent for "tickling the ivories", so to speak.

I hope this helps, or at least gets you started. Jerry Ford, here to help.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thoughts At Three (Episode 1)

3am is my own personal, hellish witching hour. All the ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night must be already turned in for peaceful slumber after the standard 12am witching hour, because things always seem to be pretty quiet at 3am. Although this morning I had the pleasure of hearing two cats going at each other viciously somewhere close by. With my luck, they probably found a way into my car and that's where are the cat-piss and fur from the bout will be found come sunrise. I have personally never used my car as a boxing ring, but then again, I am not a cat. I'm sure it would make a dandy one - especially if they figured out how to turn the radio on. I usually have the radio set to a station that would play perfect music for catfight accompaniment. I seem to hear "Eye of the Tiger" monthly, which usually gets my blood running and leads to me being pulled over and either warned or ticketed for speeding.

But I am not sitting at my desk at 3:41am to talk about catfights - unless there is a filmed version of a Sophia Loren/Raquel Welch offering from the mid 60's, then by all means, I shall review.
 "The Battle of the Super-Vixens" - Fight of the Century - Meow!

I am hear to talk about The Beaver. No, not Jerry Mathers and certainly not the much sought-after area of the female body that has lovingly been dubbed with that moniker. I am talking about the beaver that lives in the wild, building dams, swimming playfully in the world's rivers and slapping beaver-messages to their friends and family on the surface of the water with their tails. That Beaver.

In Belarus, a man died after being attacked by a beaver, which made me kind of sad. I thought, "So, in Belarus, it's come to this..." Then I read further and it was revealed that the beaver had attacked the 60 year-old man after he had grabbed the animal in order to have his photograph taken with it. I had always thought of the people of Belarus as kind and gentle, wise in the ways of the world, with impeccable taste. After all, according to my statistics, folks from Belarus have read my blog, presumably using the translating function that I made available for my foreign readers. However, I must amend my position on the Belarusiusians after reading of the beaver attack and subsequent death. I now know that they simply have impeccable taste - if only in their chosen reading materials.

Here's my thought: Why in God's name would you want to have your photograph taken with a beaver so badly that you would grab it? Though the beaver spends most of its time in the water, I still can't imagine that it smells very nice. And who knows what unpredictable mood the beaver might be in when you paw at it? Perhaps (and obviously, in retrospect), beavers do not enjoy the human touch and perhaps (and obviously, in retrospect), it might even agitate them to the point of attack - so why bother. Take your photo from a distance, perhaps poking your head, or a pointing finger into the frame, and get back in your little Belarusian car and keep moving.

Even this city boy would balk at grabbing a beaver. Any wildlife, really, but beaver in particular. They chew down trees. This would be akin to accosting a three-foot long, 60 lb., deliciously furry chainsaw, equipped with a speedy tail that could slap you to the other side of Tuesday. My message here is simple - stay away from the beaver. All wildlife if possible, the beaver in particular. Also, go back to bed and get some sleep - what in the fuck are you doing up at 4:15 in the morning, anyhow? Sweet dreams...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Winning the Lottery, or "Money Runs From Me."

I was rifling through Yahoo News at a blistering pace, given my Speed-Reading ability and God-given talent for sifting through treacle for the juicy nuggets, when I came across an article titled "5 Better Investments Than the Lottery". This sounds boring, I thought. The lottery itself is naturally disposed to being a fantastic topic for a variety of reasons, none of which is "what are 5 better investments?"

Among the most awesome lottery topics, in my opinion would be "Lottery Gone Bad", "The 5 Greatest Lottery Hoaxes of All Time", "How to Squander 60 Million Dollars of Lottery Bounty in 30 Days", "Sex, Drugs and Really Fast Cars - My Lottery Adventure", or "How The Lottery Bought Me an Island, My Own Cable Network, Three Midget Manservants and Raquel Welch In A Bikini".

Certainly not "5 Better Investments Than the Lottery".

But I'll bet you're wondering what the investments are... Here's what they aren't:
  • Jerry's Alligator and Reptile Emporium
  • Bed, Bath and XXX Beyond
  • Iron Man Suits, LTD.
  • The Benjamin Button Traveling Roadshow and Circus
  • The Feces - The World's First Human-Waste-Powered Automobile
No, believe it or not - not a single one of these world-class investment opportunities even cracked the top 100 Better Investments Than the Lottery. The Reason: They are my brilliant ideas and would most likely prove financially devastating for any investor. Why? Because money runs from me. I was having a lively conversation with Michael Lyon the other day and I was detailing the latest of my financial implosions, prattling on about some legal fee, or overpriced auto repair or ruthless collection agency, underhanded hooker or convincing panhandler, and he shook his head and said to me, "Money runs from you, doesn't it..." I nodded vigorously. "Like I was chasing it with a poleaxe," I said, solemnly.

Later, we were IMing (on my lunch hour, of course - I would never think of wasting company time discussing my financial ineptitude on company time) and the phrase came up again - money runs from you doesn't it... I understand that he was trying to undercut my generally indefatigable self-esteem, which is a laughable and largely fruitless waste of his time, but still - it cut to the chase. "Yes, it does," I replied. "Like I was carrying a torch and a pitchfork... Like I was the Last Train to Dachau... Like I was carrying a see-through bag of kitten-heads... Like I had my dick out... Like I was spraying it with a fire-hose of sewage, with a dusting of the HIV virus and some crushed and finely-ground kitten-heads..." He had made his point and I had made mine. His point was that I was financially challenged. Mine was that I don't like kittens.

That said, even my extreme, unequalled inability to manage a freshly-minted dime does not prevent me from dreaming of what dazzling changes of life might be in store if I were to actually win, inherit, or earn from forward-thinking circusery some staggering windfall that even my lusty mismanagement could not deplete. The automobile run on human excrement notwithstanding, I think I could come up with a few genuine services to humanity to bankroll that could possibly win me a Pulitzer Prize, or Nobel Prize, or some lesser prize that could be purchased through generous donation. The FartVac comes to mind - a hip-pocket device that detects flatulence and sucks up the odor and repurposes it in the scent of Halston Z-14 Cologne. The list of ideas is endless and in fact, I cannot wait to win the Lottery so that I can begin work on this and other worthy prototypes. Start dusting a shelf above the opulent fireplace of my yet-to-be-purchased mansion in Malibu for Mr. Pulitzer.

Oh, here are the "5 Better Investments Than the Lottery":
  • Pay down credit card debt
  • Boost your 401(K) contributions
  • Open a Roth IRA
  • Increase mortgage payments
  • Invest in a taxable account
I don't know what most of things even mean and even the simple act of typing them out has given me a robust and angry headache, but I feel as if I have now done my civic duty in providing you with the information.

That said, I am off to the store to buy several hundred dollars worth of tickets for the monumental lottery drawing this evening, which I am nearly certain to win. Take that, poor money management - that will show you... Until then, if you want to invest in my FartVac prototype and get in on the ground floor, I am willing to take you along for the ride.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Currey the Gent, Part 2 (an excerpt from "Mangiafico's")

Currey awoke that afternoon with a head that felt like it had been beaten with a bag of quarters. He was naked in his own bed and at first didn’t recall that he had spent the better part of the morning driving home from the West side with a stolen lamp buckled into his passenger seat. In the painful, stock-hangover period of pre-wakefulness that lends itself to neither lucid thought nor fast action, his ravaged body fought to keep the memory banks foggy. For those few waking moments, before the headache overwhelmed him and the memories of the morning’s drive came flooding back into his mind, it was nearly possible to believe that he had merely consumed too many cocktails and made his way safely to his own home and bed.

“Lamp…” Currey forced open his eyes—the afternoon light was painful. He felt like a vampire that would surely turn to a pile of useless dust any moment. He hoped it would happen soon, if it would rid him of the next few hours’ misery. “Lamp…”

Currey sat up in bed and groaned, still not certain why he was mumbling the word “lamp”. Then, he sniffed and smelled her. Her smell was on him—not just her perfume, which lingered on his skin, but the smell of sex. Sweat, perfume and sex. “Oooh, yeah…” He nodded, a slight smile tracing his lips. Then it all came back to him—the dark hair, the drive home, the lamp. It had been a big son of a bitch, that much he remembered for sure. He couldn’t recall her name, however. Or her face, really—the night was a blur. He vaguely recalled sex, mostly by the smell, and wondered if it had been any good. He had never had any complaints, but then again, he was rarely around long enough afterward to hear them, were they to come.

He hoped she had been pretty. If he picked up an ugly girl at Ton 80, he would never hear the end of it. Raje wouldn’t give a shit—Currey thought that mostly he thought nothing at all of women. To Raje, women were there to have his children, nothing more, nothing less. If they could accomplish this and keep their mouth shut at the same time, their jobs were secure. He cared only about bringing his Indian Mafia to its imminent grand magnificence. Aaron and Raje’s cousin Yogesh were another story; these two drooling puss-hounds would needle him to no end about going home with an ugly girl.

Currey ambled to the bathroom, his eyes still half-closed, and stood over the toilet for a good two minutes emptying the reservoir that had accumulated over the course of his morning slumber. He thought again of the girl, wishing he could remember her face. Perhaps he should have sneaked to the other side of the bed and stolen a glance, but he had been too concerned with finding his clothes. Escape was always at the top of the agenda and there was usually no time for such trivial luxuries such as glances.

He yawned and scratched his arm and wandered to the kitchen for some juice—juice of any sort usually helped wash away some of the residual pins and needles and help replenish his spent electrolytes. Then he spotted the lamp. He had apparently set it on the kitchen table upon his arrival—as it turned out, there was no other table in the apartment that would accommodate its massive elegance. It had transformed the otherwise drab and nondescript kitchen into a kind of impromptu shrine to the beautiful lamp. Where one would have never pictured a stunning piece of ceramic beauty in the room, it now seemed perfect. The lamp had taken ownership of the kitchen, if not the entire dwelling.

Currey sat down at the table, his juice for the moment forgotten, and stared at the lamp, occasionally reaching out to stroke one of its delicate curves. It had been a valuable find and Currey smiled to himself, his headache abating, the hangover becoming less brutal by the moment. He loved his new lamp.

He turned back to the window, his hand still resting on the comforting base of the lamp. A Ryder moving van backed up to a curb in the parking lot and two strapping young men hopped out of the cab and opened the back roll-up door of the truck. It was packed full of belongings – Currey could see end tables and couch cushions, a floor lamp, some moving boxes and laundry baskets stuffed full of linens, clothing and knick-knacks. He wondered what the story was of the people moving in. A relationship ending, perhaps? Maybe one beginning. Someone moving out of a house, or moving into an apartment while his house was being built. Single lady, or man, or a couple with kids. Currey finished his juice and searched the back of the truck for clues as the two young men loaded boxes onto a dolly. Maybe they were roommates, he thought. Or gay. Currey shrugged and gave the lamp a loving pat and got up to rinse his juice glass. He hoped it was a single woman. Then he resolved to sit at the table while the two men unloaded the truck to see if he could puzzle together the answer to the mystery of the new neighbor. And he would keep his eye out for a companion piece for his new lamp – just in case.

Currey the Gent, Part 1 (an excerpt from "Mangiafico's")

Currey was startled awake when the hair began to move. He opened his eyes and glanced anxiously at the mass of black on the pillow. It rustled and turned and when the moment was right, Currey slipped his arm from beneath the rustling body and sat up in the bed. He rubbed his arm and pins and needles shot through it as the blood began to rush back into the limb. Currey grimaced and continued to rub the arm. He looked at the shape beneath the covers. She was a small woman, not too big around. The view of her was much better from this angle and he began to become aroused. He looked away, trying to stick to the business at hand, which was finding his clothes and getting out before she awoke. He wondered if his car was outside. He hoped so. He had no idea where he was or how far from home and he still had a shitty taste in his mouth and no toothbrush, so the car would be a very nice thing to have close at hand.

He spotted his pants in the corner. His boxers were close by, and his socks, but his shoes and shirt were no where in sight. Feeling was returning to his arm and Currey was relieved that there was no apparent lasting damage. He glanced again at the sleeping form as he slipped from the bed. For a moment, Currey considered slipping back under the covers to see what the body beneath felt like now that he had sensation again. Always with the arousal. Currey shook his head. Focus, he thought. Focus, Damn it! He slapped his penis for being a nuisance. The girl in the bed stirred—probably the sound, Currey figured and smiled to himself. He eased out of the bed without incident and got his boxers on, then his pants. He gathered up his socks and stuffed them in his pocket.

He made his way to the living room, where his shirt lay on the floor by the front door. Didn’t waste too much time, apparently, Currey thought, gathering up the shirt. Luckily, his shoes were draped over by  the shirt, so he scooped those up as well and sat on the sofa to put them on. He gazed about the room in a half-sleepy daze and smiled. It was a pretty house, nicely decorated, with big lamps on the end-tables. Big round lamps that were a deep burgundy with tan shades. Currey nodded—very classy, he thought. Currey liked lamps. He had small lamps at his own place. He pulled the blinds back on the window behind the couch and saw his car was parked—albeit at an odd angle—in front of the house. He slipped his shirt on and walked toward the front door. Then, he paused and went back to look at the lamp a bit closer. It really was a very nice lamp. After no more than a moment’s thought, Currey unplugged the burgundy lamp and lifted it from the end-table. It was surprisingly heavy, Currey thought, but then again, it was a very large lamp.

He opened the door quietly and closed it even more quietly behind him as he left, lamp in tow. Ten minutes later, he had found his bearings—he had made his way all the way to Glendale from Scottsdale, which was an impressive feat, considering how much he had apparently had to drink—and bought a coffee at a Circle K on the corner. Then, he was on his way back home for a much needed nap, with the huge burgundy lamp belted in the passenger seat—after all, he would hate to break such a magnificent lamp in a routine stop at a traffic light.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Dude Rules" - A Life Lesson

I was speaking with a friend today and the idea of "dude rules" came up in the conversation. Her son had a set of rules - a code to live by - which I thought was admirable, since he's only seven. I did not have a code until I hit my teens, and even then it was at best questionable and mostly based on one day getting laid. "What kind of rules?" I asked. "Don't yell across the house at your mother," she said. "That's a start...Your rules, or his?" I asked. "Open doors," she said. Hers, I thought. This made the rules slightly less admirable. The fact that he was willing to embrace the rules at all at his age was still rather remarkable - when I was seven, all I wanted to do was play with dirt and pee out of doors.

When I was a younger man and had yet to enter the caged octagon known as "Fatherhood", I imagined that all I ever really wanted in a child was someone I could cuff in the head when they were stupid and to teach how to master throwing and hitting a hanging curve ball. And to impart all my fatherly wisdom, especially when it came to things like common sense, etiquette and the delicate heart-shattering minefield known as "the fair sex". When I was in turn blessed with not one, but two lovely girls as my only offspring, I figured all the grand knowledge and man-wisdom that I had accrued over the decades would most likely go to waste, which was a grand tragedy, pure and simple.

Then, blogs came along.

I now have a way to share my wizened perspective with others and I try to do so at every opportunity. When I am not busy writing about Doomsday, the dangers of wildlife, the sea and circus clowns, or taking an introspective look at my digestive system and its seriously faulty wiring, I try to offer helpful tips and common sense strategies for maintaining a civil society. This includes being a decent human being and not a savage - which is more difficult than it sounds, apparently. I read every day about rape and murder and senseless assault in our own backyard and around the globe and I wonder what in the name of Jehoshaphat is going on here?

Then I realized: We have no distinct moral compass - no code. In a world that is now based on instant gratification and an obsession with worldly goods and money, there is seemingly no room for common sense and decency, nor the time to teach it. Kids are learning their grammar by texting, their manners from cartoons and their ambition from video games.

I began to think about rules and codes to live by and figured that I had ought to try to sit down and write a set - a sort of Constitution For Boys, to give a road map for behavior and perhaps provide some much-needed guidance for the wastrels that are growing up like stringy, half-witted weeds all around us. The youth of our nation weighs in the balance.
  • Keep your junk clean. Clean junk is the only kind to have - it makes you feel better, it doesn't itch as much and you never know when an emergency might come up and you might need it to save a life.
  • Put the lid down. This might not save a life, but it's just good form, like chewing with your mouth shut and taking your hat off at the dinner table.
  • Don't scratch your nuts in front of others. We're not animals, after all. Find a counter, or a couch to stand behind, then take care of the business. You'll look retarded, but you won't look like a savage.
  • Spit only outside. Unless there is a sink or garbage can close by, try to refrain. Same goes with covering a nostril and blowing snot out the other - you never know where it's going to go. Just do it outside.
  • Don't call women "bitches" or "ho's". Especially around women. Have a little respect.
  • Remember, your friends' nuts have feelings, too. That's right, calm the fuck down. Until you've been kicked there yourself, keep your Keds on the floor.
  • The Vagina is magic - treat it with reverence. But do not make eye contact.
  • Baseball is as fun as football, simply more subtle and less violent. Learn baseball and you learn life.
  • Don't fart when there are girls around - unless you are absolutely certain that it will be silent. Even then, make sure there is a dog handy to blame it on.
  • Breasts are fun - treat them with reverence. But again, don't look them in the eye.
  • Learn to palm a quarter - it will eventually get you laid. This is a throwback to my teenage code, but it has served me well, lo these many years.
I believe that this is enough for part one of this ongoing series. Stay tuned, learn and share. This knowledge is too valuable not to pass on.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jerry In Stir - A Life Lesson

I just spent two days in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City for making the questionable decision to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of the demon rum and its sundry sister ales. There has been ample written about the facility and much fear served into the hearts of would-be miscreants who would dare dream of driving while inebriated. Unfortunately, when one is impaired, one is not usually thinking of these articles, or available videos and billboards - one is simply attempting to maneuver their way safely and without incident to their point of origin. Or a brothel, or another dram house. I am not one to judge - my point is this: If one is not prudent in these choices, one will pay the price in dollars and cents for legal advice and fines, extra fees for counseling (whether it is your bag or not) and assorted other fancies such as a monthly charge for an interlock device (or Car BJ, as it is known in the business), towing and reclamation of your life in the name of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. A costly affair.

Tent City, in itself, is not bad in February. I have made a vow to myself that I fully intend to honor, that I will confine all of my criminal activities to the winter months. The nights are a trifle chilly, but nothing that can't be managed with four of the sheriff's pink blankets and a sturdy pea-coat. I imagine it is unbearable in the summer. The process of submitting one for incarceration is a seemingly simple one that is drawn out to take hours of time and years off the processee's life. I am nearly certain that I could streamline this clunky assembly line with little more than a decent project manager, two data entry individuals and a fully-charged tazer. It took me 12 hours from the point of recognition by authorities to the time when I was delivered, issued two blankets and cast into the shallows of Tent City. 12-Hours. That's three holding cells, a van that has no "off" switch for the heater and forty-five minutes of tap-dancing by the staff to tell me where the toilets are and to not put my penis through the fence for the delight and satisfaction of the female inmates on the other side. Seriously.

I was warned by my counselor not to touch the food issued and upon espying the vittalia decided that he was spot-on in his recommendation. I ate 7 grapefruit from the lunch sacks in two days, forgoing all other options, augmented by two RC Colas and a bag of peanuts and some cheddar pretzels from the "Commissary", which consists of six vending machines in a tiny room. I was told that all items - from the striped uniforms worn by those in the "General Population" to the lunches in the bags and the snacks in the vending machines are donated by others and that the proceeds from the commissary are handled by Sheriff Joe's daughter who has, incidentally, been arrested. I am not one to complain - America was built on this kind of opportunity. Sounds like a fantastic gig.

I met and organized a posse while in the holding tanks, mostly made up of young men - aged 19-28, who appreciated my take on the situation and my random suggestions for improvement. They called me "Boss", which I appreciated and each other "homeboy" or "homey". I nicknamed them, respectively, "Speedbump", "Kickstand", "Play-Doh" and "Bric-A-Brac". They seemed to enjoy these names and took to call each other by them, an act for which I took great pride. They asked me how jail was run in the Civil War and I obliged them with lofty tales of intrigue and espionage and they in turn filled me in on pills - narcotics, uppers, downers, muscle relaxers and speed, for which I had no intelligent reply. They did not hold this slack-jawed confusion against me and brought me goods from the commissary, so that I need not risk "breaking my hip". Cute little bastards...

There was a tall, soft-spoken black man who looked exactly like Larry Holmes, minus the space in his teeth and the lisp who had been "in the system" since he was eighteen and dispensed infinite wisdom, free of charge, about the court system, jail, release, protocol and cautions throughout my stay. I declared his knowledge so valuable that he should have an "ESQ" after his name. Henceforth, he was known as "Esquire". A seedy little fellow, with a huge nose and large brown, shifty eyes darted about the tents trying to sell cigarettes (not allowed on premises) for $2 each and claimed to be dealing in the pill trade with which the youth seemed to be so indoctrinated. His Modus Operundi was to sell a cigarette for two dollars, then bum a puff off the person to whom he had sold the smoke. "No way," Kickstand told him in no uncertain terms. "You've got a sore on your lip." He was called "HERPES" from that moment forward. Herpes later got his ass kicked by another individual in the lockup for attempting to shave some ciggie-money. I heard about it later.  So it goes for thieves in the stir.

If there was a single horrific aspect of being confined to the tents, aside from the affected assholishness of the staff (who did nothing that I could see, aside from berate those below via the loudspeaker and scoff at those who addressed them face to face) was the stink that enveloped the premises late at night. Located near the landfill, I had assumed that the smell was methane escaping from the chimneys that pocked the fill to allow for the lethal gas's escape. I was told, however, that the stench was that of animals being incinerated by the humane society. I pulled the blanket up over my nose every night to escape the noxious aroma and thought about the pets facing their final solution. It was in the air and inescapable and thoroughly disgusting.

I approached Mark Grace (Former Cub/Diamondback first baseman), who happened to be starting his four months in the joint the weekend I was there and he couldn't have been nicer, I introduced myself as "Jerry Ford" (which always gets a second look), told him I was a big fan and told him that if he needed anything, he should simply ask my boy, Bric-a-Brac. He nodded politely. I then told him that I had lived in Chicago for ten years and had followed him for most of those. "I am so sorry," he said. I went on to tell him of the saloon on Rush Street that we had visited from time to time which had a poster-sized photograph of Mark Grace mounted on the wall. It was one of those pictures that was taken with the horizontal lines longer than the vertical ones that pictured Mark Grace stretched out to gather in a throw from first base. He was stretched into splits worthy of Nadia Comeneche, with his nutsack nearly dragging in the infield dirt, his glove reaching out to accept the toss from the first baseman or the short stop. That in itself was poetic, but the look on Gracie's poster-face was nothing less than magical. Never had I seen such a serene character, simply smiling and waiting for the throw. It was majestic and we spent the rest of the evening in the tavern trying to figure out a way to steal the poster to mount in our home. We ended up leaving emptyhanded, but with a keen buzz and I might have turned something over on my way out in my frustration. It is my way.

"I can't even stretch to tie my fucking shoes," Grace told me after the story. I thanked him for his time and walked away and called Bric-a-Brac off from shanking the former major leaguer when the lad thought he had been disrespectful. "It's okay," I said. "He's gotta spend his whole life being Mark Grace - this has to be tough..." Bric-a-Brac watched Grace fold himself into his blankets early and nodded. "I suppose so," he said. I wondered if he understood. Bric-a-Brac and his kind were a bloodthirsly lot.

The rest of the weekend went smoothly and it took six hours for release. Again, I made mental notes regarding the necessity for a good project manager and scribe. The rest could be upgraded by force and rechargeable tazers.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Pope Benedict XVI, otherwise known as "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God" has decided to retire. This is unfortunate - I had always been told that "God Hates A Quitter" and personally, I think the Pope, if anyone, should be leading by example. That said, I have often thought that I would make a fine Pope and could enact some much-needed change in the beloved, if rather stale and dowdy global enterprise known as The Catholic Church. And now is my chance.
When I have brought this thought up in the past to my wife, who is from Mexico and raised a staunch Catholic, the idea was always meant with a hearty "NOOOO - you can't be the Popa!" I would pout, mutter to myself and go back to minding my own business. Apparently, my run at the office of Pope would have to be mounted a bit more surreptitiously than via a broad proclamation. There would apparently be some opposition, what with me being neither a Cardinal or a Bishop, or even a Priest, for that matter. Hell, I'm not even Catholic and don't believe half the fairy tales in the bible and generally scoff at the idea of an omniscient God that rules over the world of man. That could be a problem when running for head of an organization built around propagating the tales of the bible and all. Or half of it... Or whatever.

However, when I typed in "do you have to be Catholic to be the Pope" into my Google Search, this answer came up: "The Pope is elected by the Cardinals, who are the top officials of the Catholic church. Under the rules, they could elect anyone they wanted to as Pope. And there have been some cases where the person who was elected as Pope had no religious or priestly background. It appears that they purchased the office (something called Simoney)."  I considered this a promising start. I could find a way to tapdance around the atheism and bible-as-fairy-tale-thing when the time came, like any good preacher or politician.

This also from the internet: "While it is possible that a non-Catholic could be elected Pope, it is very unlikely. Consider the power that the Pope has today in the Catholic church and over the world, it would make no sense for the Cardinals to elect someone who was not in agreement with their beliefs, agenda, etc." Okay, a little stumbling block, but I think that with a couple of strategically-greased Cardinal-palms and a thinly-veiled threat to some Cardinals with the world-renowned and much-maligned Skewed Moral Priest-Compass, I believe I could at least get a foot in the door. After that, I would have to rely on my natural charisma and unerring sense of right and wrong to convince the rest of the Cardinals that I was the man for the job, in spite of being married (for the third time) and an atheist.

I would bring change to the Catholic religion - amongst the changes I would enact:
  • Change the hat. Too gaudy - go with an elegant fedora. The look is timeless.
  • Increase attendance to the Catholic church mass worldwide, by offering a refund of money previously donated to return visitors. But how will the church make money, you ask? Volume. And by selling off some the ostentatious candlesticks and jewels. They are often referred to as "priceless", but give me a week and a secure Amazon account and we can clean up this decorating disaster in a hurry.
  • Upgrade the Pope-Mobile. I want a car like the Batmobile for parades and such. It looks cooler and makes for a quicker getaway in case I'm attacked by rabble.
  • No more of the up and down during the course of the mass. Have a seat, get comfortable. I would also add a sports segment - a lot of good events happen to take place on Sunday and I believe that worshipers would appreciate an update. Another positive, along with the dollar beer and free popcorn, that is guaranteed to drive attendance.  
The fedora - elegant and timeless. And perfect for Pope Jerry I

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kinkajou - A New Name For Terror

Meet the kinkajou. While it appears to be a devilish, lively cross between a ferret and a monkey, the kinkajou is actually from the same vicious nocturnal family tree as the raccoon. I, for one, have never heard of the kinkajou before this week, when an article appeared in the news about one of these feisty creatures causing trouble while rooting around on the rooftop of a family home in rural Texas. While the animal was eventually captured, it was only after it had bitten a deputy through a bite-proof protective glove. Once captured, the little bastard also escaped and terrorized a group of housecats and had to be re-captured. There is no word on whether anyone was bitten during the second capture. Apparently, lots of other people have heard of this animal and some have even raised them as pets.If you are at all familiar with my irrational fear of animals, nature, the sea, out-of doors, circus clowns, certain types of wood and children with two different-colored eyes, you probably realize that this wily little biter is simply another one of God's creatures that will torment me in my dreams. It has claws and raccoon-like fingers (which have always seemed creepy to me), sharp little teeth and quite a temper when riled.

How is it that there are new animals (mostly vicious) that keep coming into the picture that I have never gotten wind of before this? Where the hell have they been? I have a feeling that they have always been around and that they are being doled out one at a time to keep us on our toes. I read about new types of bear, monkey, rodent. spider, sea creature, Sasquatch and deadly new varieties of fire ant and honey bees that can decimate entire civilizations. Perfect.

I have given everyone fair warning that we need to start thinking about defending ourselves against these creatures - and I don't mean simply capturing one or two and tossing them into a cage at a zoo or loosing them in a "wildlife preserve". I say if they are not needed to provide me with prime rib, chicken tenders or pork chops, get rid of them altogether. Do you really think that there is a purpose for the kinkajou, other than to bedevil me in my dreams? I say feed the kinkajou to the fire ants - maybe if we can fill their ant-bellies with kinkajou meat, they will become logy and easier to exterminate.

I understand that there are do-gooders out there who want to make certain that no species of life on the planet goes extinct and I have a solution for them as well: Throw them to the kinkajou and the honey badger. When they get their bellies full of do-gooder, perhaps they too will become logy and the fire ants will be on them that much quicker. Circle of life, you know? Only to my own comforting end. Away with the badger and the sloth, the kinkajou, its raccoon cousin, rats, the smaller mice-rats, bears (unless they are tasty - I have never eaten bear), spiders of all ilk - especially those that fly, snakes, armadillos and hedgehogs. And I know they're teeny and seem harmless, but let's get rid of the mole. They are creepy, eyeless and hairless. Fuck them. And fuck the big cats and wild dogs while we're at it. They're mean and carnivorous and need to have the African Honey Bees set upon them.

Basically, what I am proposing is a world populated by people (us), their domesticated pets (reptiles excluded - fuck them, too) and friendly, docile animals that are tasty when served with potatoes or a green vegetable of choice. If ranch dressing or ketchup is needed to make the animal palatable, then we need to consider setting the fire ants to them. Once we have suitably dealt with these beasts, vermin, varmints and pests, we can get to work on the circus clowns. We just need to be sure we have some fire ants and honey bees left. It pays to be judicious when cleaning up a planet.